About August

a quick look at summer’s final third

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Janae Breunig

I’ve been seeing them all summer long. Each morning, I get up and stumble into the kitchen to grab a glass of water at the kitchen sink. I look out the window, and there they are. Over the rain splattered windowsill, through the dirty screen, I can see them peeking at me. 

Black-eyed Susans. Delicate yellow stars with a little darkness in the middle, stemming from the back corner of an overgrown flowerbed. The breeze bends them over and around the side of the house so they can stare back at me.

Why are these wildflowers here? I didn’t plant them. You might tell me they volunteered, as if one day they stood up and said, “OK! We’ll do it.” They sunk little roots into the thatch. And now they stand guard, misplaced sentinels, nodding gently as the kids run into the backyard.

All summer long, peering right at me in the cool morning light.

•••

Not sure how much longer these leaves will last out here. They’re wearing out. Growing ragged and splotchy. They’re only a pale shade of green now, near yellow. 

When the wind is strong, and the tree just can’t hold on, the leaves will pepper the air, flipping and snapping and curling down onto the shaggy grass below.

When I finally get out there with the lawnmower, I’ll run right over them, shredding them into little bits, tiny memories of the summertime.

I think the branches will probably forget those leaves. It’s just so much to remember.

•••

The thick slabs of humidity laid across the Chippewa Valley are slowly dissolving. Under the sun, the breeze is sounding a little husky. The lawns are drying out. The tiger lilies in the boulevards are shriveling away. Suddenly I see dusky stalks hiding inside the bushes, with weird seed pods perched on top. Ready to pop.

Things are feeling crunchy.

•••

It feels like the insects are getting bigger. Hulking out. The cats are catching them inside the house, right there on the kitchen floor. Insects I don’t think I’ve never seen before. Funny looking bugs.

How’d they get in? What are they looking for in here? What do they want?

•••

Tomatoes are born to meander. They were never supposed to live in big pots on your deck next to the propane grill, hanging on slender metal scaffolding. They have nothing against that way of life, I don’t think. But it’s not how they operate in the wild.

And in August, plants grow wild.

Don’t feel bad if your garden looks all wonky, with vines crawling all over, cherry tomatoes splitting down the middle. It’s the way they work. Let them have their fun.

•••

People aren’t happy about the heat in August, but they seem a lot more accepting of it. For one thing, we feel a little defeated. The hot days have worn us down. But also, we know the end is coming. We know September is coming. Just hold on.

Autumn will save us.

Soon, cool morning fogs will move in and hover around the edges of the neighborhood – a wall around our castles. We’ll drive through it on the way to work and school, and then linger outside our buildings, breathing deep before we pull open the doors and go inside.

•••

Tonight, under a cool dark sky, I’ll leave the widows open and listen to the breeze rushing through the trees out back. It’s begging for the leaves to change color and go flying through the air. But it’s not time yet. The wind needs to be patient.

August is in no hurry.

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